ME AND MY GREEN RADIO: A Memory From My Childhood

No, my radio didn’t look like this, but since this IS green, I think you should get the gist. Photo courtesy of ambientweather.com

 

REMINISCING WHAT WAS A SIGNIFICANT FACTOR FOR MY GETTING INTO MUSIC

Lately my memory banks have drifted to when I was a single-digit age kid living with my grandparents in Woodcrest, CA, just outside of Riverside.

On the night stand next to my bed there was this medium-sized, dark-green colored radio that at night, after I officially went to bed with the lights out and the covers over me, I would turn on – with the sound down, of course – and listen to songs that even as young as five, I thought they were brilliant.

It was the early to mid-1970s, and that green radio just happened to be tuned into, well…

I can’t recall specifically which station, but I do recall it was of the AM pop music kind that played the hits of the day.

Which meant that the sounds coming from that box ranged from R&B classics like the Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around” (one of the songs that I especially remember hearing),

To particularly the many Beatles-influenced singer-songwriters whose hits dominated the airwaves at that time, all-time classics such as Carole King’s “It’s Too Late” from her iconic Tapestry album, Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me”, Joni Mitchell’s “Help Me”, and one song that I liked so much, I called it my favorite tune at five years old: Seals & Crofts’ Diamond Girl.

Music wasn’t the only thing I remember listening to from my radio with the volume adjusters on the lower right hand side, though.

I recall listening to a late night talk show guy on KABC named Michael Jackson (no, obviously not THAT Michael Jackson – I know, right?!), and while I didn’t understand his topics in the slightest, being the six/seven-eight-year old that I was, I did like the sound of his voice and the people who called in.

 

 

 

My favorite song at five years old, and one of my favorite songs as a single-digit age kid: “Diamond Girl” by Seals and Crofts. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

It gave me a feeling of comfort, much like the jet planes from nearby March Air Force Base (where I was born) that flew by from time to time, which looking back was an aspect of my Asperger’s Syndrome, responding to certain sounds.

The same went for a guy who followed Jackson named Ray Briem, who I was told when I became an adult was an extreme right-wing conservative, the Rush Limbaugh of his time, the kind of guy that our dear President-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and his supporters would be in love with, whom my grandfather would get so mad at when he listened to him.

I thought that was kind of funny in retrospect, the fact that I wouldn’t dare give a guy like Briem the time of day today.

And with KABC being the broadcast station of the Dodgers, I did listen to Vin Scully broadcasting games from Dodger Stadium, San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, and other places where the Dodgers played ball.

But it was the music that I remembered coming from that forest green box, which not only influenced me to like music to this day and beyond,

It also influenced my contempt for much of today’s musical styles, some of the various producer’s compilations – I won’t ever call them bands – who I won’t name, that I would bet couldn’t read a note, let alone write a song or play a musical instrument; folks that completely emphasizes style over the substance that the artists and real musicians of my early childhood exuded.

The kind of acts today that, without mentioning any by name, depend on backup dancers and lip synching to their voices onstage so much that they’d have to cancel their concerts if there was a power outage.

And it all came from a medium-sized dark green radio that I used to listen to at night as a young, impressionable child, which today provides good memories whenever I recall those nights in my twin bed listening to those thoughtful, artist-written songs.

It’s interesting how things like that influence your life.

 

A part of the Woodcrest, CA area where I lived during my first nine years, and every school vacation afterward until age 14. Photo courtesy of estately.com

 

 

 

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WALKING ON EGGSHELLS: Excerpts from Chapter Ten of My Book Describing Having Asperger’s

Anyplace like this – open spaces, rolling meadows covered in bright green grass with mountains in the distance – is my happy place. Image courtesy of pngtree.com

 

Here are a few passages from my soon-to-be self-published book on my life having Asperger’s in the mainstream, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”.

These excerpts describe my experiences as a forty-something, approaching-middle-age adult on the high-functioning autism spectrum;

The chapter is called “Frustrations In My Forties, With A Helping Of Hope” – which I believe explains it all…

 

I would be anywhere – in my house, or out and about – doing my thing, when all of a sudden a flashback of something socially stupid that I did or said, or a memory of someone like Marlon* putting me through hell, even though it had happened decades before those horrible reminisces would suddenly pop into my head with such clarity, they might as well have occurred that day.

The trauma resulting from these flashbacks would be to the point where I would scream “NO!!” inside my head in order to try to get them out, Sometimes I’d scream “NO!!!” out loud because the flashback and trauma would be so overwhelming.

This PTSD, combined with the faux-pas I committed that was a part of trying to live, be accepted, and liked in the neurotypical world on my terms, all led to a level of frustration that was so pronounced that it got to a point of, well…

Remember the 1995 movie Leaving Las Vegas?

That’s the movie where Nicholas Cage won the Oscar for Best Actor playing a raging alcoholic who, when he loses his job and everything else due to his dependency on booze, moves to Las Vegas to drink himself to death and ultimately succeeds in that goal, but not before meeting and falling for the proverbial “Hooker with a Heart of Gold”, played by Elizabeth Shue (who got a Best Actress nomination for her efforts).

Well, for a long time that’s how I felt, dating back to when I quit my last job as an after school teacher in Inglewood.

Did I start hitting the Jack Daniels or hook up with a working girl of the evening?

Of course not, but whenever I saw Nicholas’ character imbibing on the Vegas Strip and the surrounding streets, I couldn’t help thinking that I could relate to how he felt; how he saw absolutely no way out.

What triggered these urges in me were the acute feelings of oppression; being yelled at (in my mind), told what to do or what not to do in a way that (again, in my mind) made me feel like the one doing the yelling and ordering about saw me as an inferior less-than-human being, as that seemed to be the only time he or she ever communicated with me in any way when all I was doing was something that society has always said one should do:

Be Myself.

For practically my entire life, the messages I had received time and time again was that the world would universally respect, accept, and embrace me if I was myself and didn’t try to emulate anyone else.

Incident after incident, not just during my forties but seemingly my whole life, told me in no uncertain terms that the notion of “be myself and I would get respect” was nothing but a boldface lie – at least as far as I was concerned as I would never intend to speak for anyone else.

How does my being on the autism spectrum tie into all of this, you may be asking.

While I have described different episodes that highlighted my anger and frustration over being rejected, condescended to and bullied for the crime of just being me and – very important – not conforming to what was considered “normal” and “acceptable” in whatever group or endeavor I was involved in,

By the time I approached my late thirties and it became clear that nothing ha changed, my frustrations over seemingly failing to be liked, accepted, and successful in the neurotypical world got to be so overwhelming that I began to voice the suicidal thoughts that – judging from that time I went to jump off the top of SMC’s football stadium after I punched that girl when she told me to shut up – had been inside me since my late teens.

A decent example of this was at one of the places where I had worked. I had mentioned it earlier, about how I was told by the supervisor that I was no longer welcome in that place of employment due to the way I interacted with my co-workers and others.

“Well, there’s nothing left to do but kill myself,” I remarked, the reality of losing yet another job sinking in.

“You don’t need to kill yourself,” my just-became former employer replied.

“Yes I do,” I thought, as the spirit of Nicholas Cage’s character in Leaving Las Vegas nestled inside me.

There were quite a few gnarly incidents like that over the next several years, when anytime somebody said something in a certain way that would make me feel picked on, put down, or like they didn’t see me as an equal human being those negative (in my mind) words would bring out the suicidal feelings; although I knew I shouldn’t take things like that personally – and was told such many times – I didn’t know how to take it any other way.

And, I must admit, still have a difficult time doing.

Of course the fact is I’m not dead (at least as of this writing as no one can predict the future and tomorrow’s never guaranteed to anyone), which along with never hitting the bottle or meeting and falling in love with a prostitute are the big differences between me and Ben Sanderson – Nicholas Cage’s Leaving Las Vegas character – as I couldn’t go through with the actual deed of taking my own life.

By blurting out my desires to take my life and not going through with it, I reckon there were a few people who saw me as the proverbial “Boy Who Cried Wolf”; it wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case.

The truth was, like every other person who has ever considered ending it all, I was in roughly forty years worth of mental and emotional pain as my blurting out my desire to end my life was akin to coffee spilling from a cup.

 

 

A VERY interesting photo of an Asperger’s brain compared with a neurotypical brain…

 

 

This next excerpt illustrates two personal traits of my Asperger’s – CONFUSION and ARRESTED MATURITY & EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT…

I was at the Culver City Library and had just finished with my online work on the public computers when this lady passed by me and suddenly, with this “Eureka!” look on her face, exclaimed “Derek!” like I was an old BFF.

I was thinking “Who the hell is this girl?” as I asked, “Do I know you?”

I won’t say her name in order to protect her privacy, but rest assured when she told me who she was – and old elementary school classmate who was in my 4th and 5th grade classes,  the memories came back.

And they were not good ones as she was, while not as bad as Marlon, was one of those who had bullied me, calling me an ape and a gorilla and not only picking a fight with me when I dared to stand up for myself, but punching me on the shoulder while I was trying to do the right thing and walk away.

The confusing part of all of this was that this girl didn’t always bully me. There were times when she treated me okay and I would think, “She’s my friend”, then for seemingly no reason she would turn on me, call me some nasty name, and I would get upset to the point of sometimes crying.

It was all a lifelong part of only being able to see things in black and white as in this case – and by my estimate several hundred other cases regarding my interactions with people – it was simply too hard for my brain to not see people as either a friend or an enemy, with no in between.

As far as I’m concerned, people either liked or hated me.

And I still struggle with that at times, because those shades of gray are too complicated for me to completely understand.

Fast forward roughly 35 years…

There we were in that library, me and my old classmate, and as the memories of her bullying me returned to my gray matter, rather than rejoicing over seeing her after all those years, my emotions were mixed as I voiced what she had done to me.

To her tremendous credit, her reaction was expressed by two words:

“I’m sorry.”

Even though I did forgive her, and even though we ended up having a nice little reunion that day, my mind still couldn’t avoid bursts of PTSD that stemmed from her bullying all those decades ago.

 

ARRESTED MATURITY AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT

This was and is the other personal aspect of having Asperger’s Syndrome that over time I realized was a part of the disorder that really had a grip on me – and in some ways still has.

Starting in high school, and for a long time afterward, it became quite clear that I was emotionally behind the other kids in my grade as even though they, like me, were born in 1967, it seemed like they were older than me somehow.

They had signed up for driver’s education and had gotten their permits and licenses and cars the moment they were able to while I had not only waited until senior year to take driver’s ed, ending up with a bunch of sophomores, well…if you’ve been reading this book you know how trying to get my license turned out for me.

Many if not most of them were going to wild parties and getting smashed, while with the reputation I had even the slightest thought of inviting me to those soirees was pooh-poohed.

I always found myself interacting with younger kids not only in those days, as among other things I hung around my old junior high school a bit too much during my first year at Samohi and ran back to hang out at Samo at least one a week for the first couple of years I was at college; I was even told by a couple of well-meaning guys one night at a football game that I shouldn’t “make a habit” of visiting too much.

I wasn’t that clueless; I knew deep down that my choices in who I hung with were unusual. I knew deep down that the lack of interactions with my fellow members of the class of 1985 and my preference of befriending members of latter classes was, for lack of a better term, “socially (so-called) retarded”.

Even during the class reunions I attended, although I had a nice time and interacted pretty well with my classmates, I still felt like they were somehow older than me despite the fact that we were the same age.

The thing was, not only was I not driving and not partying, which seemed to me was what roughly 90% of my peers were doing back in the day, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing that stuff even if I was welcomed to those shindigs.

I specifically remember during the fall of 1983 – my junior year – the Samohi marching band getting into HUGE trouble to the point of being pulled from all of our scheduled competition tournaments save one, because of the extreme partying that the majority of the band would do after games on Friday nights, some of them showing up to rehearsals the next morning hung over, and feeling left out and like I was seen as a loser because I had no knowledge of those parties, which meant I wasn’t invited.

Looking back, it would have been a Catch-22 if I had gone to them because all the drinking, drugging, and other madness would have been completely alien to me, like I was visiting from another planet with older folks as I still had that kid mentality of “Oooh, they’re drinking and smoking and having sex!”

They were going through the adolescent growing-up process and the wiring in my brain wasn’t allowing me to, which was frustrating, being mainstreamed into that neurotypical world, the level of frustration growing over the years to the point where suicidal feelings would manifest in me from time to time, for roughly thirty years after that.

Although I still sometimes continue to think that no one really needs me, that if I died people, at best, would mourn me for a bit and then move on as if I had never existed, their attitudes bordering on the “Good Riddance” variety, these desires to end my life eventually ended due to something that happened to me – and I’m still going through – back in 2012.

The root of all my social struggles stems from this:

HAVING ASPERGER’S SYNDROME IN A NEUROTYPICAL WORLD.

Allow me to make something crystal clear, however…

I am NOT, in any way, shape, or form whatsoever, speaking for everyone in the Asperger’s community. I know full well that there are plenty of people with this condition, including some big names like Dan Ackroyd, who are thriving in the NT community and have done so for many years with independence, lucrative careers, and the like.

I am strictly speaking for myself, for THIS aspie.

 

(* = Not his real name)

 

 

A good illustration of me during my formative years, I think.

 

 

 

MORE FAILURES IN THE WORKFORCE: Excerpts From Chapter Nine of “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”

Take away the business attire, and this was me in the workforce much of the time, especially my last six years there. Photo courtesy of iamexpat.nl

 

ANOTHER EXCERPT FROM MY SOON-TO-BE-(SELF)-PUBLISHED BOOK DETAILING MY LIFE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM IN A NON-AUTISTIC WORLD

My pronounced lack of success in the workforce – specifically working for someone else – was so large and varied that I had to write two chapters in my upcoming book, WALKING ON EGGSHELLS, in order to properly describe all the incidents.

These following excerpts cover the failures I had as an employee from 1999 to 2008, when I quit my last job and left the workforce for good after having what (I think) was my third nervous breakdown.

Here’s the first excerpt:

The autism spectrum part of all this was that due to my need to do my own thing and my not being able to humble myself and see bosses as just that – rather than equal partners – every one of the six jobs that I subsequently had over the next six years would end the same way that it did at Farragut, with me either being fired or forced to resign.

This especially manifested itself in the next major job I was hired for, a place called Westside Bay School*, located just a few miles from my house that ended up really affecting me negatively as I became more disillusioned from my experiences there than any job before or since, for one particular reason:

It was a non-public, special education school geared toward children with Asperger’s and other parts of the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

In other words, Westside Bay School was geared toward kids who behaved similarly to me as a young-un.

This led me to having a big sense of optimism upon getting hired as a PE instructor (technically an aide, like at Farragut)  there in August of 2003, because this was a place where I cold be a real role model, where I felt I could have a positive impact on the students.

I had no way of knowing that my ten months at Westside Bay School would be almost nothing but a nightmare.

And I also had no way of knowing that it would end up being the overwhelming reason I would not be comfortable around autistic people or other Aspies for a while after my time at that school; I grew SO bitter with that place that as I walked through the front doors on my last day, June 11, 2004 (I remember the exact date!), before I hit the sidewalk I turned around, faced the school building, and stuck my middle finger high in the air.

It wasn’t the most mature or professional thing to do, and of course I regret making that obscene gesture, but I hope you understand why I couldn’t help it after describing my experiences there, the feeling that led to me flipping Westside Bay off.

 

 

 

 

This next excerpt details the trauma I suffered while working at this particular school:

 

If I’m going to describe everything that went down between me and (my supervisor), I’d better not refer to him by his real name as despite everything that happened, I have enough respect for him to not do so.

I’ll call him Gary*.

I vividly remember the first time that I saw that Gary’s and my relationship was far from what I assumed – it was after classes one afternoon.

Gary came into the little office that we shared and said, “I need to talk to you.”

“What about?”

“High school PE,” he replied.

At that point I knew something bad was going to be said because my ninth and tenth grade PE classes were going terribly, the 9th grade class, consisting around fifteen boys, in particular.

But in my warped mind, I expected Gary to commiserate with me.

Offer sympathy.

Say “Hang in there,” or something like that, like I would do if the situation were reversed.

But instead, he pulled out a piece of paper and read what seemed to be an endless list of “suggestions” to make things better in those two PE classes.

As I write this over a decade later, I completely recognize that Gary was only trying to do his duty as a supervisor.

But back then, here’s what my mind was telling me as he was saying what he was saying:

“This guy’s viciously insulting your intelligence AND your experience!”

“This dude thinks you suck as a teacher and are an inferior human being – why else would he interact with you like this?”

“Who in the hell does this jerk think he is, talking to me that way?!”

All of which led to feelings of sheer humiliation, which in turn led me to see him as an oppressor and an enemy, especially after I mentioned that I had Asperger’s and should be cut some slack and left alone with the mindset of “Oh, he has Asperger’s so anything he does we ought to overlook (which was wrong, I know now), and he answered in what in my mind was quite the condescending tone,

“Well, regardless…” which I interpreted to mean that he didn’t give a fuck about me as a human being.

I felt he was blatantly disrespecting those twelve years of experience, that because I was a “veteran” who had been through the wars I had more than earned the right to be left alone to run my classes my way and to be seen as a completely equal partner in every possible way.

Which I now understand was wrong to think as I failed to see that teaching special education students is not the same as teaching neurotypical students.

 

 

 

 

This last excerpt is kind of graphic, as it describes having suicidal thoughts:

 

It was also one of those times where staff would get those “State of how’re you doing” evaluations, which in my view was nothing but a way for the supervisor to tell you how you sucked or, as they put it, “needed to improve” in certain areas.

Which although I have to be fair and say that he did start by listing my good points – was exactly what Gary was doing that afternoon after all the obligatory BS meetings were done, as we sat in the new workout room which doubled as our new office.

I wish I could tell you the precise things that Gary was telling me, but what happened that mid-winter day was so traumatic that my mind has blocked it out.

Except for when, as my brain was screaming how vicious he was in his criticisms, how it was so insulting on an epic scale he may as well have been calling me a “dumb n-word”, he was emotionally hurting me that much; after I said “I’ll try”, in an attempt to placate Gary and concede defeat, he replied in what I felt was the most viciously condescending, drill-like sergeant-like tone that anyone had ever took with me in my entire work life:

“Don’t try, do it!”

I don’t remember what exactly happened immediately after that exchange, but I do remember what I did for what I believe was the rest of that week: stay home and lie in my bed in a deep depression, wanting to commit suicide.

I know this is such because I saw the school’s principal and Diane*, who I had mentioned as one of the leaders, in the principal’s office upon my return a few days layer and either told them I wanted to kill myself, or had blurted it out to Gary during our confrontation and he told them. Diane even asked me how I would go about “hurting myself”, and I answered,

“You know that bridge over Overland Ave., crossing Ballona Creek? I’d jump off of that.”

Apparently I had given this a little thought as I can recall thinking how I wouldn’t shoot myself because it would be too messy.

The overwhelmingly predominant reason those suicidal thoughts were prevalent in my mind was because I was feeling so hurt, humiliated, and oppressed with a dash of condescension by Gary over what had been five months to that point, that I really felt I needed to hurt someone.

I couldn’t hurt Gary, nor did I want to, because I had no desire to end up in prison as part of the proverbial black male statistic, so that narrowed things down to one person…

Me.

* = Pseudonyms, not their real names

 

A decent illustration of how I was feeling for much of my time in the workforce. Photo courtesy of sg.theasianparent.com

 

 

 

TEN YEARS AGO TODAY: Commemorating The Day I Changed My Life And Decided To Pursue Writing

Photo courtesy of droidtvnews.com

 

RELIVING THE DAY I DECIDED TO CHANGE MY LIFE ONCE AND FOR ALL

I remember it well;

On this day in 2008, I was in pretty bad shape emotionally.

In fact, I was in pretty bad shape for the past few years, as I was pathetically trying to hold onto my life working with young people in education and sports.

For the previous five years, I was miserably failing at being gainfully employed, either quitting or being fired from every one of the six jobs that I had, ranging from being a tutor in East Los Angeles to being on the coaching staff for a high school softball team, to being a playground aide – a job where I lasted only a few weeks – to my last gig as an after school teacher.

Looking back, it was evident that I was depressed on a fairly pronounced scale, even threatening suicide at one of those jobs when my supervisor was, at least in my warped mind,  picking on me for something.

It all came to a head during that last after school job when my supervisor – a young lady who was half my age – lectured me due to something I did.

Which I deserved in retrospect, but my mind was so messed up over having to kowtow to someone who could have been one of my students or athletes that I felt humiliated, among other negative things.

I fell into SUCH a depression that I stayed home for the next three days, rarely getting out of bed.

Which brings me to that fateful day – this day – exactly a decade ago.

I had finally realized once and for all that the effects of my being on the Autism Spectrum Disorder – having Asperger’s Syndrome to be precise – was never going to be conducive to me working with other people on a daily basis.

Not only that, I had realized that I absolutely was sick and tired of working for and answering to someone else.

I hated having to impress and please people who I honestly felt saw me as an inferior, not an equal human being in my mind.

I realized that I desperately needed my freedom, my independence from being at the mercy of someone else; for that someone else to determine whether you were going to be able to eat, buy clothes, and pay the rent through their employment of you.

 

 

Considering all the work I’ve done these past ten years, I suppose it’s safe for me to say this. Photo courtesy of dreamstop.com

 

Which was causing a stress that was quite unhealthy.

And most of all, after remembering how people had told me over the years that they liked my writing and my essays in schools and such, I realized that my talents were in that field and that I needed to pursue that wholeheartedly.

Or forever wish I had.

In short, being an employee was virtually – and perhaps literally, being that I had threatened suicide more than once during my time in the workforce  –  killing me.

I began that February 6th by meeting the softball coach I was under the previous spring at a Carl’s Jr., telling him of my plans.

Then I journeyed to the school where I was working at to take my stand against those oppressors, I mean employers.

To formally quit not only my job, but the “Kid Business” in general, ending my life in working for young people.

To in layman’s terms, tell the overseers, I mean supervisors, at that after-school job to “Kiss my ass” (not literally of course; I had a little more class than that).

And to begin my life as a writer, which I did a few days later when I found a site called HubPages.com and began writing different articles about my experiences with having Asperger’s and other things, which I got paid in royalties for.

Which led me to joining another writing site that paid royalties, Triond.com

Which, being a sports person who liked to give opinions about such, led me to writing for Bleacher Report and Fansided, helping to start GoJoeBruin.com, a sports blog covering my alma mater UCLA, on that network.

Which eventually led me to starting two blogs of my own:

SoCalSportsAnnals.com, on this same WordPress network,

And this blog.

Which I will have had for three (for SoCal Sports Annals) and four years this July (for this blog) respectively.

Along with working on my book describing  my struggles with being on the autism spectrum in a non-autistic world, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, which I am on the verge of finishing as I have done a fourth draft and am going to do some final editing on one chapter in particular.

 

 

 

I thought it would be nice to include a picture of Charlie Brown’s dog doing his writing here, as I grew up on “Peanuts” and consider it the greatest comic strip of all time. Image courtesy of  jdspero.wordpress.com

 

 

In Case You Were Wondering:

No, I have NOT gotten rich from this now decade-long career – FAR from it.

But that’s perfectly OK as my mental well-being has improved in the past ten years since that day I walked away from the “Kid Business”

I don’t pretend that I have arrived as a writer; I’m definitely haven’t had any success on any best seller lists whatsoever.

But one thing is for sure…

By having these two blogs and this soon-to-be published book (by no later than the end of this year), I feel that I’m being more a contributor to society.

For lack of a better term, I feel that I’m more in my niche.

And that I will have left something worthwhile to be remembered by when my time in this world is over – if people care to remember me at all.

Which I think is a big part of living your life.

 

All Right, Here’s My Main Point:

It all began ten years ago today.

And it wouldn’t be right to not mark the occasion in these Hartland Chronicles of  mine.

Of course it’s my hope and prayer that my life in writing will continue to be fulfilling.

And if it becomes lucrative, great!

But to be honest, making a lot of money was not on my mind when I decided to do this.

It was to become happy in my life’s work – or at least happier.

Which I of course thank God for as I’m convinced He was leading me to this.

It’s been a pretty good ten years doing this writing thing.

I only pray that the next ten years are as good if not better.

Perhaps I’ll work on a young adult novel when “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS” is done and published; I have a few ideas swimming in my head.

I know I’m going to grow and evolve SoCal Sports Annals, as that’s my business for all intents and purposes.

I also know that I’m not where I want and need to be as a writer, and probably won’t be for a while.

But at least I’m not where I used to be those past few years working for someone else, especially mentally.

And that’s something that I certainly thank the Good Lord for.

 

Photo courtesy of writehacked.com

 

IT COULD HAVE BEEN ME: What I, On The Autism Spectrum Disorder, May Have Faced 70 and 80 Years Ago

Photo courtesy of ourkids.net

 

A few years ago I was spending Thanksgiving at a relative’s house, doing the praying and the eating of the turkey and the watching of the football and the typical loving family things that are done  on that holiday.

I don’t remember what it was that sparked it, but as my various relatives – including a cousin with Down’s Syndrome – and I were sitting in the living room, my aunt began to talk about when she was a girl in the 1930s, when children with developmental disabilities like my cousin turned five they were sent to (in the case of the Los Angeles area) the state mental hospital in Camarillo.

And were never seen again, the mindset evidently being that it would be a waste of time for kids on the Autism Spectrum, or with Down’s, or any other kind of mental or emotional disability to be in a world where they obviously (in society’s mind) wouldn’t be able to support themselves or make a living or anything like that.

There were no special education programs in the 1930s, or the 1940s or 50s or even the 60s for that matter, as that branch of education didn’t really come about until the 1970s; it didn’t become mandatory in American public schools until 1975.

As I was listening to my aunt that Thanksgiving night, one thought came to mind…

“That could have been me.”

The way I sometimes behaved as a kid due to my having Asperger’s – in ways that is difficult for me to talk about to this day (which is one reason for my book WALKING ON EGGSHELLS, as it describes some of those incidents at length so I won’t have to talk about them in conversation) they were so extreme, animalistic, and shame-inducing – I’m convinced that I would have been one of those kids taken away to Camarillo for the rest of my life if I were born in 1927 or ’37 instead of 1967.

I’m only grateful that the school I went to in Riverside, CA during kindergarten had a “Special Day Class” where I even though the teachers (one of them, anyway) were rough on me as far as behavioral modification, I was able to improve on my animal-like behavior to be mainstreamed into a regular first grade class the next year – and every year clear on through high school and beyond.

In fact, I used to like to say that I was the only kid I knew who was in both special ed and gifted classes during my K-12 school years; both ends of the spectrum, so to speak.

All right, I know some of you are probably saying right now, “What are you getting at?”

THE BOTTOM LINE:

I’m glad that there are so many programs and schools geared toward kids and adults with Down’s and on the spectrum now.

I’m glad that I was mainstreamed, even though I sometimes wonder how my life would have been if I wasn’t, if I spent my formative years in special ed programs.

And even though I sometimes get a little weary of my difficulties in the neurotypical world due to being an aspie, even though things could very much be better I’m ultimately glad that my life has turned out the way it has.

Especially considering the way things are going with too much of our population right now; I’m SO grateful and thankful to God that I’m not homeless or in jail or anything of that nature.

I suppose that’s all I have to say right now.

 

A nice illustration of how ANYONE and EVERYONE is capable of learning and ultimately contributing to society through education. Photo courtesy of bdmtech.blogspot.com

STRUGGLES IN THE WORKFORCE: Excerpts From Chapter Eight of “Walking On Eggshells”

This seems like a decent image of the hard times I had while in the mainstream workforce. Photo courtesy of yourstory.com

 

 

A brief update on the progress of my book, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”:

It’s getting closer to being done!

All ten chapters have been edited for the third (or fourth, I’m not sure) time and been printed.

I just have to go back to one chapter and possibly replace the name of a place where I used to work with a pseudonym, in case such place takes offense at its mention, the way I described my experiences there.

The next step? Getting my manuscript into a sort-of book form at the local UPS store and (finally!) sending it to Lulu.com for self-publication.

As I’ve mentioned on my Facebook page, if “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS” is not in your hands by December 31st of this year, then I will consider myself as having failed at this endeavor.

 

As For Now…

I thought I’d give another excerpt of the struggles I had as an adult in the workforce due to what I know now stemmed from having Asperger’s.

My (mostly) bad times during those years toiling for a paycheck were so many, like my high school days I divided them into two chapters.

These excerpts are from the chapter I call “Failures In The Workforce, 1991-1998”:

 

As I obviously needed a job and it was, as Mom put it, “desperation time”, I went in, asked for an application, filled it out at home, brought it back, and a few days later I got a phone call from them saying I was hired. I remember promising Mom that  I would “work hard and do whatever they say”, feeling a sense of relief that I was gainfully employed again and was able to find something relatively quickly after such a monumentally terrible experience at Grant School.

That feeling of relief evaporated like water in Saudi Arabia in the middle of summer as my job as a salesman fast became what I call to this day “The Eight and a Half-Month Prison Sentence”, realizing quite rapidly that working in retail was even MORE of a wrong profession for me than education was.

I hated the concept in retail of “There’s always something to do”, even when no customers were in the store and all the luggage and counters were clean, polished, and stacked neatly.

I especially hated it when, just before the 10:00 p.m. closing time, which was the shift I was always given, what seemed to be a load of customers would come into the store and I would be forced to stay after having been there for eight full hours, gritting my teeth on the bus home and doing everything I could not to scram in anguish over slaving away at that plantation; for the record, it was the only full-time job I would ever have.

And I REALLY hated it when, on a scheduled day off which gave me a most blessed sensation throughout my being the phone would ring and it would be the store ordering me to come in and work because someone had called in sick, whom I would think would be faking so I would be tortured at that personal hell hole; there I’d be, so looking forward to a relaxing day at home watching TV and what not, and I’d be forced back into the salt mines.

And on top of everything else, in the tradition of pouring salt on what in my heart was a painfully gaping wound, there was one other thing that made tat place of retail a maximum security prison hell: A certain co-worker who, like Marlon roughly 15 years before, was a flat-out bully and a word-that-rhymes-with-witch.

I’ll call her Gina*.

(Gina) was short in stature – not quite like Snooki, but in that Jersey Shore girl’s league – with pale, pasty skin and long, wavy brown hair. She had an ever-present stench due to her being a heavy smoker, reeking of tobacco as a prominent image of mine regarding her was standing outside of the store with a pack of Marlboros in hand, dirtying her lungs, other people’s lungs, and the air with those wretchedly foul cancer sticks.

I’ll never forget one particular day when she pushed me too far and I snapped, going into one of those meltdowns which are common to at least some folks with Asperger’s…

Gina and I were standing behind the counter next to the cash register. I wish I could tell you what Gina said, but like so many other incidents before and since, I’ve blocked it out of my mind due to the extreme post-traumatic stress that it would cause to my psyche.

One thing was for certain: I was feeling low and depressed and Gina must have called me some bad name or made some bad gesture that pushed me over the edge. I do remember her putting her hands in her ears like Bullwinkle and making a taunting noise after I had told her to leave me alone.

 

 

A more accurate illustration of how I felt during my years working for someone else in the workforce. Photo courtesy of businessinsider.com

 

 

The next thing I knew, I was throwing some balled-up piece of paper at her and she reciprocated by spitting her Marlboro-laden saliva at me. No, I didn’t make any move to hit her – however much a word-that-rhymes-with-witch that Gina was, at least I had enough presence of mind and respect for females to not let it come to that – but it was another albatross around my hellish luggage store neck.

You would think that my experiences at that store would improve by leaps and bounds after Gina was finally fired for her evilness a few weeks later, the owner of the store dramatically pointing at the door and telling her those two words that I so wanted to her for the longest time, but nothing could have been further from the truth as my miseries went beyond that little Lady Voldemort.

That’s why it was a foregone conclusion that I would be relieved of my duties right before Labor Day, though in all honesty they beat me to it because I was planning on marching into the owner’s office right after that holiday and tell my oppressor, I mean employer, those two little words that I had desperately desired to tell him for so long:

“I QUIT!!”

I’m quite positive that many of you are thinking this right about now…

“You should have been glad to have had that job! You were just an ungrateful, spoiled little baby who need to suck it up and grow up!”

I can certainly understand that sentiment, and despite what it seems it’s not my intention to use my Asperger’s syndrome as an excuse for my fucking up at that store – and nearly every other job I had before and afterwards. I know that many Aspies have been successful in retail-type gigs and other professions where service with a smile is required,.

However, I’m about as far as those Aspians as one could get as not only is any gig of that persuasion isn’t any place for me, I knew even before that horrible experience that I was 1,000 times more successful in situations where I was allowed to do my own thing at whatever work I was involved in.

It’s like if I had a little plot of roses growing in this huge garden, and it was my responsibility to take care of those roses in that plot, keeping those American Beauties watered and the ground insect-free.

When an overseer, I mean employer, would criticize me on how I’m doing or micromanage me, he/she is – figuratively speaking – stepping on those roses of mine for what I see in my mind as no reason other than to be a mean bully.

That’s how I felt and, to be brutally honest, still feel. Even though I understand that employees need supervising and constructive criticism in order to achieve maximum performance, I couldn’t, and still can’t help from seeing that as bullying.

That was why I HATED evaluations…at least in my mind, evaluations were always a way for bullies, I mean bosses, to remind me that I was a lesser being in their eyes, which essentially and eventually ruined me as a person with ability to sustain gainful employment as far as working for someone else.

 

No, this wasn’t where I had such a horrible time but as it’s a place that serves the public, it’s in the same league as that luggage store where I toiled. Photo courtesy of themountaineer.com

 

 

 

 

Why I Like Rain

I like this rain image, with the trees and the hills. Photo courtesy of the odysseyonline.com

 

Living in the Los Angeles area, particularly in the past few years, I haven’t experienced too much rain, Southern California being a desert climate and all.

Now that it’s been raining in my neck of the woods for the past day or so, I thought it would be a good idea to chat about why I like it.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the floods or the mudslides in the hills that oftentimes happens when too much rain occurs; my heart goes out to the five folks that died due to the mudslides in our area.

Here’s the reason why I enjoy it when it rains, however…

Besides the fact that with the seemingly endless drought that has persisted in my state of California, we certainly need the rain,

As someone on the Autism Spectrum Disorder, namely high functioning Asperger’s Syndrome, there are certain sounds that I enjoy, sounds that I find comforting and give me a feeling of coziness, when I want to bundle up in bed with a blanket and eventually fall into a nice sleep.

Along with helicopters and planes (I know, that’s a bit strange), rain is one of those sounds.

To me, rain is a sort of personal message from God that I need to slow down.

Take a bit of time off.

Rest and recharge.

It just feels so cozy to me, and I always feel a tiny bit disappointed when rainstorms end and the sun comes out.

The ironic thing about these sentiments?

I used to have almost the opposite opinion about rain during the spring as a young person, because I played baseball and storms would always wash out games.

Now if it rains and I find that I’m unable to play my pick-up softball games on weekends, I shrug and go “Oh well”, my thought being that it’s not the end of the world.

I think that’s called maturity.

Anyhow, I’m liking this rain that’s hit L.A.

As soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to jump into my bed, pull my covers up, and enjoy the coziness that it brings to me and my senses.

 

Another image of something that gives me such a cozy feeling. Photo courtesy of siyathanews.lk